August 8, 2022

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Get outside With the leaves of unusual plants laced with frost, ponds frozen to glass...

Get outside
With the leaves of unusual plants laced with frost, ponds frozen to glass and rows of evergreens creating a Narnia vibe, formal gardens can be their most enchanting in winter. Follow a trail through 170 holly trees at RHS Rosemoor (£13 adult, £7 child) in Devon, or see a fantastic collection of towering conifers at Ardkinglas Woodland Garden (£5 adult, £2.50 child) near Loch Fyne in Argyll.
Warm up in an indoor tropical garden such as the Tropical House and domed Great Glasshouse at the Botanic Garden of Wales (£12.50 adult, £6 child) in Carmarthenshire, which also has a newly restored Regency landscape of waterfalls, bridges and paths, and a Fairy Wood of tiny houses and toadstools to explore.

Stay warm … inside a dome at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Photograph: Tim Jones
The Scottish Snowdrop Festival encourages visitors to admire carpets of the dainty buds in gardens across Scotland. Among them the Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway – usually known best for its exotic plants such as gunneras and tree ferns – runs Snowdrop Sundays throughout February; or join a candlelight snowdrop walk on 27 February at the Teasses Estate in Fife (£30 per car of up to five people). South of the border in Northumberland, children can help plant 100,000 snowdrops at Wallington, a National Trust house, bringing their own trowel to help gardeners in the woods.
Out in the wild, keep a lookout for interesting winter fungi such as King Alfred’s cakes, the firestarting fungus used since the stone age – and find out more about fungi and the world beneath our feet at RHS Wisley in Surrey (£16 adult, £8 child) where there are special half-term activities until 27 February.
In North Yorkshire, people can take part in The Wild Watch nature survey in Nidderdale, joining walks and nature groups or just keeping an eye out for hedgehogs and owls.
Sports days

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Archery at Woodmill Activity Centre, near Southampton
If your kids have been enjoying the Winter Olympics or were inspired by British slalom skier Dave Ryding’s first ever UK Alpine World Cup win, head to a dry-ski slope for a taste of downhill the old-school way. Dave learned his turns at the scenic Pendle Ski Club (£10 adult, £7 junior) in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, but there are dozens all over the country, see for a list. Or find somewhere to try the more sedate Olympic sport of curling at
Take a different tack at Woodmill Activity Centre outside Southampton, with kayaks and canoes to rent (from £14 an hour) and two-for-one tutored 90-minute Discover Archery sessions (£11pp).
Do some science

Immersive art experience at Liverpool Cathedral. Photograph: Gareth Jones
For an alternative approach to thinking about space, Liverpool Cathedral will be transformed for an immersive evening art experience, Space, The Universe and Everything, (18-27 February, £8 adult, £6 child) using displays of lights, projections and sound produced through collaboration between sculptor Peter Walker and composer David Harper.
The planetarium of Glasgow Science Centre (£12 adult, £10 child) hosts a show about aliens and life beyond Earth, from 12-14 February, and has workshops, a Science Show Theatre and an Imax cinema.
At Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum (free, book ahead) kids can join activities relating to the body (12-27 February) for a new exhibition Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope, and on 23 February meet scientists working in STEM.
In Edinburgh, stuffing yourself with chocolate could passably be justified as genning up on science – a 90-minute tour of The Chocolatarium (£19.50 adult, £12 child), reveals the tree-to-bar process, with tastings along the way.
Explore history

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Kilmartin Glen. Photograph: Duncan A Peet/Historic Environment Scotland
Winter can make spending time at an ancient stone circle or sacred monument feel particularly poignant. Absorb the atmosphere with a dawn or dusk visit to a neolithic site, such as the 5,000-year-old tomb Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey; the cairns and standing stones of Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, or the largest stone circle in the world, Avebury, Wiltshire.
Discover what life in an iron age roundhouse was like at the Crannog Centre near Loch Tay in Perthshire, or explore the Tudor and medieval open galleries lining Chester’s central streets with a new downloadable audio tour, Discover the Rows.
Through half-term the National Trust runs events at most properties, such as Gruesome Graves Tours at Sutton Hoo (£14 adult, £7 child) in Suffolk, exploring the estate’s Anglo-Saxon royal burial site – with costumed volunteers bringing the era to life.
Meanwhile the London Transport Museum (£15 adult, child free) celebrates generations of people from the Caribbean who shaped London’s transport history at a new exhibition from 11 February.
After dark

Grab the cube at Spectra: Aberdeen’s Festival of Light. Photograph: James Mulkeen
As it still gets dark early, this break is a chance to give children a taste of the excitement of going out after nightfall. Spectra: Aberdeen’s Festival of Light (10-13 February, 6.30-10pm, free) features interactive sculptures, architectural projections and experimental music across central city streets. Similarly, Love Light Norwich (17-19 February, 5.30pm-10pm, free) has projections and performance art through the city centre, while near Bristol, the Victorian Gothic National Trust house Tyntesfield launches a new fire and light trail (11-27 February, £16.50 adult, £12 child).
On the Isle of Wight, the Robin Hill parkland attraction (£20pp) continues to celebrate Chinese New Year from 18-26 February, with large-scale inflatable characters, lights and a dragon procession.
Or take a flask of something hot and delicious to go nightwalking in one of the country’s many Dark Skies sites, whether it’s the Davagh Forest in Northern Ireland’s Sperrin mountains in County Omagh or Minniglow burial mound in the Peak District.
Go Stargazing is a good source of events and locations.
Meet furry friends

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Meet a llama in West Lothian. Photograph: Arch White/Alamy
For a treat, how about going on an alpaca or llama walk? Lead the way at Almond Valley heritage centre (£40 per family to walk two, plus admission of £11 adult, £9 child) in West Lothian, which also has a museum, adventure play and farm animals. Or book a stroll with Lakeland Llama Treks (from £25pp) near Penrith in Cumbria.
Meet otters at Dartmoor Otters (£9 adult, £7 child) in Devon, or visit regular farm animals at a free city farm such as Stonebridge City Farm in Nottingham, or Bristol’s Windmill Hill City Farm or south-east London’s Woodlands Farm Trust.
Feel the love
As Valentine’s Day falls during many schools’ half-term, ignore their cringes to check out some romantic poetry in one of the country’s great libraries, such as The National Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall in London or Manchester’s Poetry Library.
Shakespeare’s Globe in London has a live, hour-long storytelling of Romeo and Juliet suitable for 5-12s (18 February-16 April, tickets £15pp), or older ones might be up for watching a screening of Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet on 14 February, at Cineworld cinemas nationwide (£18 adult, £15 child).


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